Small leak shows water's impact on paper records
Water is among the greatest threats to paper files stored in basements, attics and back rooms by businesses, government agencies and other organizations. However, keeping documents safe from water can be a major challenge, as many storage locations are especially likely to get moisture in them. Experts agree that environments need to be carefully controlled to store paper without having to worry about water damages.
Organizations in the Kanawha County Courthouse in West Virginia recently saw the fragile nature of paper documents firsthand, as a small leak in the building damaged records dating back more than 20 years, the West Virginia Record reported. The files were significantly impacted by the leak and needed to be sent away to a special restoration service in the hopes of retaining the data that was stored in them. Overall, more than 75 boxes were impacted by the leak.
The leak was discovered when a courthouse employee entered the area where records are stored and noticed the water getting into the basement room. Investigation revealed that a leak in a toilet in a bathroom above the storage room was creating a steady stream of water into the files, the report said.
Shortly thereafter, courthouse staff had to go through an arduous process sifting through every box and file in the storage room to identify the records that had been damaged and those that were still safe. When this process, which went well beyond normal working hours, was completed, each box had to be repacked, with the damaged files sent out for restoration. This process was further complicated because strict legal guidelines regulate the storage of court files. As a result, the officials working with the files had to get an official court order from a county judge to get permission to send the documents out for restoration.
Kanawha County Commission president Kent Carper told the West Virginia Record the Commission plans to cover all of the costs to have the documents restored. Currently, the total expense is expected to total between $15,000 and $20,000.
Kanawha Circuit clerk Cathy Gatson told the news source the courthouse staff has placed the documents on pallets to protect them if the toilet leaks again and more water gets on the floor. However, she acknowledged that this is simply a temporary solution that will not do enough to protect the records during an extended period of time. As a result, courthouse officials are beginning to search for a third-party solutions provider to initiate a permanent document storage solution.
Outsourcing document storage to a specialist could be the ideal solution for a number of businesses. For many companies, putting files in storage means hiding them away in a dark room and ignoring them until more papers are added to the stack. This can leave the records vulnerable to a wide variety of risks, and also makes it difficult to access important data that is needed at any time. Businesses can overcome this challenge with an outsourced records management solution. Third-party specialists are able to keep documents in an environment that is optimized for paper storage, and will help keep information safe enough for permanent storage needs.
Speaking at a recent celebration for the Wayne State University archiving program, David Ferrerio, 10th archivist for the United States, told audiences that properly archiving important files is a critical consideration because paper is incredibly vulnerable. While some historically important documents etched in stone have survived thousands o years, many paper documents created in the past century would dissolve into dust if they are left on a bookshelf, he said, according to a recent report from the South End.